In Transit is a coming-of-age story that centres around young Ahmed, who was born to a Pākehā mother and African father, as he learns about and connects to his African heritage through the anecdotes of his father and his friends around him. The inter-generational and cultural tensions between child and parent are evident in the relationships of the young character Ahmed (Fathe Tesfamariam) and his friend Maisha (Sonaalofa Eliesa) and their parents.
This is a coming-of-age story with a twist, as identity, culture and tradition are all brought to the table for examination and thoughtful reflection—the two characters are awoken to the sometimes ridiculous and intensely traumatic past experiences of their elders. The play is written by Wanjiku Kiarie Sanderson as a dedication to late New Zealand actor Martyn Sanderson. It is directed by Justine Simei-Barton, bringing a special twist of African and Pasifika performing art to the stage. This collaboration is pleasantly surprising, with the blending of Pasifika, Māori and East African dance, song and costume. The performances are fresh, natural and quite personal.
I appreciated that the actors did not take themselves too seriously, with the connection between them evident. The live band was a highlight, helping move the story forward, while entertaining the audience. The familiar thud of the drums was accompanied by stirring vocals by Milly Grant-Koria, whose abilities are showcased across more than a few languages such as Swahili, Te Reo Māori and Samoan.
Considering the political climate surrounding refugees and asylum seekers, In Transit brings light and a little humour to some of the awkward, terrifying and harsh realities that are not usually reflected in mainstream media, or given thought to in everyday New Zealand society.